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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
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Federal Judges Not Seeing Many Frivolous Lawsuits

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What do federal judges have to say about frivolous lawsuits? The answer is provided by a survey of their opinions.

Talking Liberally – “Frivolous” Law Suits

So let’s talk a bit about the supposed avalanche of frivolous lawsuits. This claim is being used to cut back on the right to sue for all sorts of even very serious injuries.

Consider, if there were an onslaught of frivolous lawsuits crowding our dockets, wouldn’t you expect judges to be aware of the problem and even active in demanding a solution to the problem? Who better to know what a case is really about and whether it is frivolous or not?

In fact, there is a study that asked judges about this issue conducted by the Federal Judicial Center. Never heard of the Federal Judicial Center? Well, here is a description:

The Federal Judicial Center is the research and education agency of the federal judicial system. It was established by Congress in 1967 (28 U.S.C. §§ 620-629), on the recommendation of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

Hardly folks who could be called wild-eyed radicals.

In 2005, they issued a report on sanctionable behavior, and that includes the filing of frivolous lawsuits: Report of a Survey of United States District Judges’ Experiences and Views Concerning Rule 11, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by David Rauma & Thomas E. Willging

The study asked judges whether frivolous lawsuits were a problem. The overwhelming majority said no.

The views of judges who responded to the survey are likely to be related to their estimation of the amount of groundless civil litigation they see in their own docket, especially when focusing on cases where the plaintiff is represented by counsel. Approximately 85% of the district judges view groundless litigation in such cases as no more than a small problem and another 12% see such litigation as a moderate problem. About 3% view groundless litigation brought by plaintiffs who are represented by counsel as a large or very large problem.

For 54% of the judges who responded, the amount of groundless litigation has remained relatively constant during their tenure on the federal bench. Only 7% indicated that the problem is now larger. For 19%, the amount of groundless civil litigation has decreased during their tenure on the federal bench, and for 12% there has never been a problem.

I would bet that Florida judges would express about the same opinions. It is not judges who are seeing an onslaught of frivolous lawsuits. The problem exists primarily in the eyes of the Chamber of Commerce, insurance companies, drug manufacturers and other large corporations.